Des Moines filmmakers have 48 hours to make a horror film this weekend and submit it for competition

A still from this summer’s Best of City winner ‘The Run’ from Des Moines’ 48 Hour Film Project. — Tiny Explosions

Filmmakers afraid of deadlines can sign up for the ultimate exposure therapy this month. The 48 Hour Film Project takes place in cities across the country — including Des Moines — twice a year for a two-day film production competition held in July and October.

The October version in Des Moines, which takes place this weekend, challenges filmmakers to tackle the horror genre. Each participating team must register online and, in the designated 48 hours, must write, shoot and edit a four-to-seven-minute short film on the assigned genre. They are also provided a character, a prop and a line of dialogue they must incorporate.

All teams are required to submit their film on Sunday, Oct. 9 by 7:30 p.m. to officially be considered for the competition, although all films will be screened.

48 Hour Film Project Des Moines, courtesy of the 48 Hour Film Project

The Des Moines-made shorts will be screened on Friday, Oct. 14 in two groups at the Fridley Theater in Pleasant Hill (1325 Copper Creek Dr), Group A at 7 p.m. and Group B at 7:15 p.m. The Best of Screening will be Friday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. at the State Historical Building Auditorium.

There are 14 awards that each team is fighting for: Best Film, Best Directing, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Writing, Best Cinematography, Best Song, Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Use of Prop, Best Use of Line, Best Use of Character, Audience Award, and Your City’s Best Film Winner.

Each city’s Best Film winner will have their film shown at Filmapalooza 2022, the finale festival for the whole 48 Hour Film Project held in Los Angeles, to compete for Best 48 Hour Film of the Year.

Directors, actors, editors, videographers, audio engineers, professionals and film enthusiasts are all welcome to team up and take their shot.

Samuel Pace-Tuomi, owner and head archivist at Archive Iowa, runs the Des Moines project. But it was Washington D.C. native and film enthusiast Mark Ruppert who started the party back in 2001.

Ruppert told Little Village he got the idea for a 48-hour competition after reading an article about two women who started a 24-hour theater competition. Their competition included writing, rehearsing and performing a play in a single day.

“I thought that sounded super cool! And I wondered if we could do it in video,” he said. “And I knew that if we had a chance to being able to do it, we would need more than 24 hours.”

Ruppert, who serves as executive director of the 48 Hour Film Project, said it allows filmmakers to exercise their skills between projects. “A lot of times we’re waiting around for our next project, we haven’t finished the script, or we don’t have the right actor or money, something is holding us back,” he said.

But for him, it was also a chance to dive back into a “boyhood passion of filmmaking” that developed from his interest in Western movies and John Wayne as a kid. He even made some Westerns himself using his parents’ Super 8 film camera.

Ruppert got other D.C. filmmakers together after coming up with the plan, but they were skeptical.

“We had no idea if it was possible to do it, and if we were able to make [a film] ourselves in 48 hours. Would anybody else be able to stand watching it?” he asked. “Luckily, the answer to that was yes.”

The beauty of the project, he said, is, “All excuses go out the window, You’re not allowed to pay anybody, everybody in your team must be a volunteer, you only need two days. And of course, you don’t have the scripts yet, because you’re not allowed to begin writing scripts until the kickoff.”

Ruppert utilizes a network of producers in over 100 cities around the world to get filmmakers together to do what they once thought impossible, and make a great short film with little help and minimal time.

There has been over 50,000 short films submitted to the 48 Hour Film Project over the years, each new crop showing more and more filmmaking, equipment and quality improvements.

The 2022 summer Best of City winners team Tiny Explosion, courtesy of 48 Hour Film Project Des Moines

Paradoxically, what makes the competition possible is its requirements dictating genre and other factors.

“We think of this as limitations, right? But the reality is, it gives the filmmaker greater focus,” Ruppert explained.

“They’ve got to figure out some way to include the required elements. And once you start making choices, that helps the process. And then because of the time limit, you don’t have time to second guess yourself, you don’t have time to rewrite the script, usually. So, you must just keep going forward, make a quick decision and move forward, quick decision and move on. And so that’s why I think it’s possible for people to make a film in 48 hours.”

He recalled a grand champion team from Des Moines that produced the film Mind of the Prairie, a documentary-style comedy set in the 1800s with Indigenous people, settlers and miners.

“To this day, it’s still one of the top films!” he said.

“The beauty of the 48 Hour Film Project is all excuses go out the window. You’re not allowed to pay anybody, everybody in your team must be a volunteer, you only need two days. And of course, you don’t have the scripts yet, because you’re not allowed to begin writing scripts until the kickoff. So I think that that’s what appealed to me is, you put in these two intensive days of creativity, and you ended up with a film.”

Patrick Boberg with team Tiny Explosions after winning Best of City Des Moines 2022, courtesy of 48 Hour Film Project Des Moines

This trial by fire appeals to Des Moines filmmaker Patrick Boberg, who has participated in the 48 Hour Film Project for 11 years with team Tiny Explosions.

A producer/director at Iowa PBS, Boberg said he fell in love with movies at a young age, toying around with his parents’ camera just as Ruppert did.

“I just always wanted to play with it and have it in my hands. I didn’t know what I was doing. A lot of that stuff was unusable. But also at the same time, I started watching a lot of movies and really reacting to movies,” Boberg explained.

After seeing the Kevin Smith movie Clerks around the age of 13, Boberg decided he could do the same thing. “I know how to play the camera, I know how to tell some stories,” Boberg said.

He first learned about the 48 Hour Film Project in 2005 and “I just thought that sounded awesome!”

“[The project] kind of focuses all that energy on a calendar for people who don’t necessarily have the time or the money or even locations,” he said. “I just love the idea of focusing people’s energy in a
specific time.”

This year, during the summer competition, his team’s short film The Run won Best of City, which Boberg considers “surreal” — a word that could also be used to describe the odd-ball comedy they created.

“While I was really excited about what we’ve produced, and even during the production, I just took a beat as I was laughing my head off to say, ‘If we’re going to win, I kind of want it to be for something this absurd!’” he said. “Then it happened! I couldn’t stop laughing and our team just couldn’t believe it because our movie is about a guy who’s trying to find the bathroom, three different attempts.”

“I’m excited to see every year who’s going to do it and what they’re going to do and how they are much braver than we are because we’re never going to make World War II epic or anything like that,” Boberg admitted. “But there’s a lot of really talented people who are able to pull that stuff off.”

Night Watchmen behind the scenes, courtesy of the 48 Hour Film Project

There is still a chance to find your crew and get registered in Des Moines. Teams must be registered by Friday, Oct. 7 and pay a $175 registration fee. The Kickoff Event begins Friday, Oct. 7 from 6 to 7 p.m.

The projects Official Time clock is the only time allowed to work on the film; previous work is prohibited. The only preparation for the film can be the organization of a crew and cast, securing equipment and locations.

Each team leader must submit a completed Team Leader’s Agreement before the Kickoff event. Other rules are listed online.

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